“A Treatise on Light”
by Robert King, from Some of These Days (Conundrum Press)
By now everyone knows that a star may be extinct
the romantic night we see it, our hearts glub-glubbing
the way they do, but once at night in the mountains
I stepped from the cabin to relieve myself and muttered
“Forgive me” up to an eternal watch, both overwhelmed
and stewed with that sensitivity drunks have for the cosmos
or anything spinning around them. That sky was alive
and personal, on the grandest of scales, and looking down on me.
When I was thirteen, an evangelist promised the Last Judgment
consisted of a sky-wide movie of each poor life, the world at large
as audience which meant my girlfriend seeing what I did alone.
I would ache, I knew, for the film to jam and curl, to burn like hell.
Hearing the stars weren’t permanent, I forgot about eternity,
having a new worry and, as I believed in everything
that made me tingle, I lay at night to watch one suddenly
wink out, but nothing was extinguished above our house.
The truth, I’ve been told recently, regarding light we see
is that stars die with a noticeable flourish of illumination,
not simply blink their pinpoints off. And this time is so vast
against the slow drag of space it would take longer than life
to watch one star brighten up and die in its dusty afterglow
which is not true, I’ve found, of anything else on earth
where, for example, people disappear at the speed of light.
Where darkness is they were, and where the brightness was.